I doubt there’s any insect more hated than mosquitos. Nothing is more terrible than being in bed at night and hearing that distinctive mosquito whine near your face. I have definitely smacked myself in the face trying to kill a mosquito in the dark. To be fair, another time I grabbed the bugger out of the air, in the dark. That was probably one of my finest moments.

Mosquitos make up the family Culicidae, which is comprised of over 3,500 species. Not all mosquitos suck blood from humans, and in fact many species have specific hosts that they prefer, which can be mammals, reptiles, insects, or pretty much any other animal. Mosquitos can be found on every continent except Antarctica, in a large variety of habitats, from tropical forests to arctic regions.

They are actually pretty cool looking when they aren’t trying to eat you.
Image by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

Only female mosquitos are blood-sucking monsters, while males are friendly creatures that just eat nectar and plant juices. I might be being a little harsh in calling them “blood-sucking monsters”, as females only really suck blood when they want to lay eggs, because they need the extra nutrients that blood provides. Not all female mosquitos need to suck blood to reproduce, and some species are able to lay their first batch of eggs without the blood boost but must then eat some blood before producing any other broods.

Mosquitos lay their eggs in water, but what type of water depends on the species. Brood sites can range from small puddles to marshes to salt water. During the first stages of a mosquito’s life, it is aquatic. Once the young mosquitos go through the larval and pupal stages, they become airborne. When the pupae are ready to turn into adults, they float at the water’s surface and transform to their beautiful final stage.

Though they are very pesky, at least mosquitos are fairly easy to kill. Most don’t reach sizes over 16 millimetres, and they have slender, easily destroyed bodies. In order to drink blood from their victims, mosquitos have highly specialized mouths. Females have especially complex mouths, with jaws enclosed inside their proboscises. When a female lands on a food source, she pokes around with her proboscis for a nice place to drink, using two taste receptors located at the tip of the proboscis.

Mosquitos use a combination of senses to locate their prey. Certain chemicals produced by animals attract mosquitos, such as carbon dioxide and octenol. If your sweat contains a lot of those two compounds, you may have a bit of a problem with mosquitos. Mosquitos can also use sight to find their victims.

This picture is part gross, part cool. The mosquito is squeezing the liquid part of the blood out so she can ingest more of the nutritious solid stuff.
Image by Jim Gathany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

You may not think it, but mosquitos are deadly animals. In fact, they have the dubious honour of being the world’s most dangerous animal, thanks to the myriad of diseases they transmit through their saliva. Mosquito saliva contains anticoagulants to help blood flow into their body, but the saliva also has the potential to kill. Among the human diseases that mosquitos are vectors for are malaria, yellow fever, west nile, and dengue fever. As well, there’s evidence that their saliva has immunosuppressant properties, which further increases their deadliness.

So now you know that not only should you kill mosquitos because they are nasty and cause incredibly itchy bites, but also because they are evil and kill tons of people. And even though male mosquitos don’t actually bite people, you should hate them too, because without them there would be no females.

It is true, however, that mosquitos are feasted upon by many creatures, so perhaps killing them all is a bad idea. Still, I won’t hold it against you if you slap one while it’s sucking your blood.